(4 minute read)
Just back from a trip to Maplewood State Park! We originally planned a large Women Who Hike Minnesota group event focusing on Leave No Trace Principles and cleaning up the trails with our reusable green “Dirt Bags” the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics generously provided. As the landscape thaws each spring, there’s trash everywhere, and we’ve cleaned up over 80 lbs. so far!
SURPRISE! Minnesota got socked with another mid-April blizzard which left a foot of heavy snow and some sketchy driving conditions. Lucky for us, all of that cleared up before our 3+ hour drive up North, but we would not have the big Earth Month Clean up we had hoped for this weekend.
Maplewood State Park is located on 9,200 acres just outside of Pelican Rapids, in the middle of the state’s forests and prairies. The park has one of the longer Minnesota State Park Hiking Club Trails at 6 miles long and has over 30 miles of hiking trails! There are 8 different lakes to enjoy fishing, swimming and boating in, in the warmer months. We joked about bringing our bathing suits since it was 40 degrees and sunny! We found a couple of the lake names humorous: “Beers Lake, “Cow Lake”, “Cataract Lake” Alas, the lakes were still frozen…but I would love to visit this park again in the summer or fall!
Right before this trip, I got a GoPro that I’m starting to learn how to use and and made my first actual video! Check it out! (After seeing myself recorded, I realize now that I say “Check it out” A LOT and edited some of them out. So I only say it like 25 times) I hope to post more gear reviews, tips, trail reports and other Wandering Pine adventures on this channel. If you want to see more, give me some feedback on what you want to see, hit subscribe and I’ll try to keep the entertainment rolling.
Our trip started Friday afternoon, heading straight up I94 on clear roads. The ranger set us up in the Muskie Cabin, saying it was one of the nicer ones. Thanks Ranger Jeff!
This week has been heavy. Walking alongside and praying with friends during heartbreaking events and trying not to let it consume me. As I walked alone into the cabin with my full pack, I closed the door and noticed the utter silence. I tried not to just rush past it, but stood there for a little bit, let it sink in, and it felt good. I realized at that moment, that this trip would be more than hosting a hike for Women Who Hike and hoped that it would bring some peace and rest.
Three of us stayed in the warm cozy cabin that night, sharing our stories, not rushing to do anything or be anywhere, and just relaxing.
The rest of our group wasn’t able to make it up, so we took our time in the morning and set our sights on the Hiking Club trail! The forecast was cloudy, but the sun made a glorious appearance and felt warm on our faces! (we have the minor sunburns to prove it).
We started the trail right from our cabin and headed down along the shore of Beers Lake (isn’t that a great name for a lake? And its plural!)
We enjoyed being the FIRST on the trail and Ruth blazed the way, taking us through rolling prairie hills and forests. We saw a couple of bald eagles and sandhill cranes right away. And the foot of fresh snow made for some heart pumping snowshoeing on the hills, but it felt so good to be outside!
A mile or two into my 29th hike of the year, we saw a sign for the North Country National Scenic Trail. We didn’t realize our snowshoe hike intersected with the NCT and those sweet blue blazes were a welcome sight. Earlier that morning, Ruth was telling us, that her backpack felt like home…seeing those blue blazes felt like home to me! Last month, I stopped by the Martin Road Trail head and the Jay Cook Section of the Superior Hiking Trail and those little blue blazes brought back fond memories and were just the boost I needed for this year’s plan to finish it.
775 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail are in Minnesota (including the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail) and is 4,600 miles long total! It runs through 8 states and only about a dozen people have ever thru hiked it. I learned that earlier this year, the North Country National Scenic Trail Adjustment Act was passed by congress, allowing the work to begin in connecting the Appalachian Trail with the NCT.
Think about that for a second.
If I’m reading that right, we’re looking at a nice 6,790 mile walk that goes from Georgia to North Dakota! If Grandma Gatewood were alive today, she’d be all over that with her keds, shower curtain and vienna sausages! If you haven’t read the book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk , I highly recommend it. She’s amazing and inspiring. I’m no GG, but I’ll admit it felt pretty cool setting my foot on the NCT on the way up to Scout Camp and earning my NCT100 patch last Fall after our Superior Hiking Trail 100 miler. Its great to feel like you are a part of something bigger and this trail system is only going to grow, so its a great thing this part of the Maplewood Hiking club trail was very well marked!
Shortly after we hopped on the NCT, we passed a little camping shelter like the ones I’ve read about on the AT and headed up a BIG HILL we would later name the “The Big Lebowski” or the “BFH”. Maggie, who is an Environmental Educator, schooled us on glacial moraines, erratics and spotted a big spider crawling on the snow!
The three of us made it up and down the Big Lebowski, which we would later learn the Ranger named “Big Bertha”, and headed back onto the prairie. The sun was hot and shining on our faces and we were feeling pretty satisfied with ourselves. But we were starting to get tired with the snow starting to turn to heavy slush, piling up on our snowshoes with each step and were glad to find a connecting trail that took us back home. On the final leg, we enjoyed creating our own hiking vs. snowshoeing exertion formulas and decided that our thick snowshoe slog was equivalent to 6 miles for sure!
This hike would be GORGEOUS in the fall and I plan to come back and explore more of the 50 miles of trails the park has to offer. Its a place you could definitely stay for a few days, maybe even a week and still see something new every day.
Have you been to Maplewood State park? Or have you hiked on the NCT? I’d love to hear about it!
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